Kate Jenkinson had a strange feeling she would end up as a Wentworth inmate.
The LA-based actress was having lunch with another cast member in the States after become a recent fan of the show via Netflix.
“Rebel Wilson turned me on to it and I started binge-watching it. When I was having lunch with a friend who was in the show I was telling them how much I loved it. Then she said, ‘They’re about to start Season 4.’ As soon as she said that a light went off in the back of my head and I said to myself ‘I’m going to be in that series!’ I was just so sure,” she recalls.
“Flash forward to me filming The Ex-PM and my agent calls and says ‘There’s an audition for Wentworth-‘ and I just said ‘Yes! I’m getting that! That’s my job!’”
“I think she thrives, doing better on the inside than she would on the outside.”
Now she plays inmate Allie Novak, uniquely described in her character’s bio as ‘an ice-addicted prostitute with a warm and engaging wit.’ Only on Wentworth!
“She is all of those things but fortunately for me her teeth remained intact. So I didn’t have to knock out my teeth to play the character which was nice! She had a very colourful and rough life, and she’s certainly not had it easy,” she explains.
“What really attracted me to her as a person and character was this endless positivity and optimistic outlook on life. Perhaps that comes from having experienced the worst that life has to offer. She has the attitude that things can only get better.”
Allie joins from Season 4 having been a member of Kaz’s (Tammy McIntosh) vigilante group, the Red Right Hand.
“What you don’t see is that Kaz got Allie off the drugs and off the street and took her under her wing, and gave her friendship for the first time in her life. So Allie and Kaz are very, very tight. But it’s Wentworth and things can change and get spicy!” she assures.
“What differentiates her from a lot of the Wentworth characters is, I believe she’s not that upset to be in prison. It offers her a life that she didn’t have on the outside. She didn’t really have friends or direction on the outside.
“On the inside she has structure, friends and purpose. Bizarrely enough, I think she thrives, doing better on the inside than she would on the outside.
“I think It was a bad by-product of being lost and finding herself addicted to things that put her on a bad path. But once she’s on the inside and clean of all of that, she can actually focus on having a happy life.”
For Jenkinson, who has appeared on Offspring, Super Fun Night, The Ex-PM, Hiding, The Time of Our Lives and House Husbands, the filming of Wentworth offers some unique conditions that require its cast to remain alert.
“The biggest challenge for me is that you’re on the same set and in the same costume every day. When you shoot a TV show you shoot out of sequence, not in a linear fashion. With shows I’ve done in the past you can kind of figure out where you are in the story, via what you’re wearing or which location you’re at.
“But on Wentworth you wear the same thing every day and the same location every day. So you really have to figure out where you’ve come from and where you’re going.
“You have to be right on top of your script. But of all the shows I’ve been a part of, the cast of Wentworth are so diligent about the script and their characters.
“I’ve been really inspired to be amongst a cast who are so dedicated to making it work.
“It can be hard to watch sometimes but it is gritty and grimy and dirty. But that’s what I love about the show.”
“I always felt a bit nervous about being that accessible to strangers.”
After her debut episode last week, Jenkinson is ready for Wentworth‘s very fervent, very vocal fans around the world to make their feelings known.
“I’ve been told to prepare myself. Apparently there are fans all over the UK. I’ve been told to prepare for fans from Copenhagen and Brazil! I’m looking forward to it,” she says.
“But I never felt quite right about (Twitter). I always felt a bit nervous about being that accessible to strangers.”
With Season 4 in the can, cast members are now awaiting the inevitable news of a fifth season. The FremantleMedia show has ratings, fans and awards and shows no sign of slowing down. Together with promising news about more for ABC’s Ex-PM, Jenkinson may well be spending more time on our shores than in the US.
“I will go back to LA at some stage but at the moment I feel like Australia is calling me back,” she adds.
“I’m very happy to answer that call!”
Wentworth airs 8:30pm Tuesdays on SoHo.